While children are definitely a joy, a family with 3 or more children, which can bring a wealth of happiness, light to the parents and siblings involved, might also bring the dreaded Middle Child Syndrome. Your middle child, the second in birth order, the one between the firstborn and the youngest, may suffer from “middle child syndrome” which can disturb the family ideal that you work so hard to cultivate. So what is this unpleasant "syndrome"? And how, with very simple means and with a little attention and proper work, can you prevent it from materializing? All this and more can be found in the article below.
When talking about Middle Child Syndrome, you should know that luckily, it is not a clinical mental disorder. This is only a nickname for a familiar phenomenon of distress that accompanies many middle children during their childhood and may create unpleasant situations, and in extreme scenarios also harm the child's proper development and cause future damage.
The problem itself stems from the situation at home as soon as the child suddenly becomes sandwiched - the attention that has been given to them till now is suddenly directed at their younger sibling, the responsibility and rights at home go to their older sibling, and they may be left with many questions gnawing at them: what is my place in the family?," " What is my role at home?, " and " What is expected of me?." If these questions aren’t answered, they may lead to an identity crisis, manifested in a decline in self-confidence, outbursts of jealousy and rage, lack of initiative, irresponsible behavior, and a tendency for the child to become shy and introverted.
It is clear to all of us that parents have no intention of abandoning their middle child or wanting them to experience these difficult feelings - but this can happen naturally, so don’t ignore them or think they’ll go away. Only if you recognize the signs in advance, will you know how to treat them and avoid common mistakes that could lead to an outburst, preventing the future damage that this problem may bring with it. Below you'll find 5 highly effective and experience-based tips to help you do this.
Know that there is nothing wrong with hand-me-downs, whether its clothing, houseware, toys, games and more - all of these can be passed from one sibling to another and save you a lot of money. But on the other hand, be careful not to over-circumvent this practice with regard to your middle child, because it can come back to you as a double-edged sword. If they are forced to see time and time again that their possessions, which were inherited from their older sibling, are being passed down to their younger sibling, or even if they notice that their younger sibling gets new things because the old stuff is worn out- the sense of deprivation and discrimination, and the feeling that they are only secondary to you and even less, may develop within them.
Therefore, occasionally try to spoil your middle child with new things that will be their own, and that haven’t passed through a line of people to get to them - it is less economical but very important for their self-image and sense of importance and uniqueness in your eyes. No less significant is to let the child decide from time to time what new things you’ll buy for them, ask their opinion and let them feel that they are important. Moreover, even if you want to pass something down from the middle sibling to the younger one - even if it seems like the smallest thing – try to ask the middle child first, and make sure that it’s okay with them
Your eldest is already "independent in the field" and gets along on his own, the little one becomes the center of attention and demands most of the care and attention, but what about the middle child? After all, they are sandwiched between them, and you may feel that maybe you can let go and give them some independence, in order to give yourself more time for other things. Despite the logic of this decision, it may be a mistake of the worst kind, because, in the end, it is still a child who has to get used to this new status in the family and needs your warm and loving embrace to know that they are not neglected once their younger sibling comes along.
When it comes to this matter know that it’s good and even necessary to spend quality time with the whole family, such as at dinner, but it can’t and shouldn’t replace planning personal one-on-one time with each child, especially the middle one. Once or twice a week, put aside some time just for the two of you, separate from the other kids, and go out to breakfast or watch a movie together, or just hang out in their room putting a puzzle together and talking to them. No matter what activities you do together, the important thing is that you know how to listen to them and be involved in their needs so that feelings of neglect or lack of consideration on your part won’t come up.
Middle children often turn into the "peacemakers" of the house, because by virtue of their place in the family, they feel a sense of responsibility for the family order, which causes them to hate situations where there is an angry atmosphere in the home. That is why they use their internal logic to find solutions to quarrels and conflicts that naturally arise between siblings. You, of course, can enjoy a lot of peace and a good atmosphere at home because of their reconciliation capabilities, but as there is something to gain from it - there is also something to lose.
If your middle child feels that they have the sole responsibility of keeping the peace at home, they may feel that their preferences and choices have no place, that they need to always be the ones that compromise and give up - that their wants and desires are always less important or less valid during an argument. Such feelings undermine their self-confidence and may exacerbate the problems already mentioned. On the one hand, you have to give the middle child the responsibility to realize their talent for peace and conflict resolution, but on the other hand, when you notice that an argument is overheating or that the middle sibling gives up, unjustly, time after time - Don’t hesitate to intervene and take their place.
When the care of the youngest child takes up most of your time, the tendency is to transfer as much responsibility as possible to the older sibling with regard to household chores and regular daily tasks, thinking that at their age, understanding and ability to take part in work are greater. However, you should not ignore the middle child and treat them too childishly when it comes to responsibilities and chores. If you do not place a certain responsibility on them-and no, saying "help your big brother” isn’t sufficient in this context - the feeling of lack of uniqueness and insignificance can gnaw at them and promote the appearance of unwanted behaviors.
Therefore, make sure to entrust to your middle child a number of chores and assignments that will be unique to them, and that will suit their character and of course, ability, depending on their age and skills. For example, if their older sibling is responsible for washing dishes and taking out the trash, give them tasks such as clearing the dishes at the end of the meal or cleaning up the playroom. In addition, if your young child is still a baby and you are caring for them, let the middle child help you and take part in the process, with small tasks - such as help with showering the baby. Thus, they will learn their role within the new family unit created by the younger sibling, instead of focusing on a negative feeling that they are being "replaced" as the baby of the house.
There is no doubt that firstborns bring with them endless excitement and satisfaction, even in the smallest steps they take, like getting a star in their notebook from their teacher or going to basketball practice for the first time. It is reasonable and natural that this excitement will abate when their younger siblings do the same. But while the eldest brings the spirit of achievement and pioneering, and the youngest is spoiled and wrapped in cotton wool - it is very important that you not let your middle child fall between the cracks making them feel a lack of uniqueness and an inability to make you feel proud.
Therefore, it is essential that you make every effort to nurture and instill in them a sense of independence and uniqueness, in which they can feel distinct and different from their older sibling, and in addition to that - genuinely - praise and be enthusiastic about their achievements. Don’t let them walk in their older siblings shadow just because it’s convenient. If, for example, the former excelled in basketball do not be tempted to direct the middle child to the exact same thing. Try to identify their unique skill - if they like sports get them involved in a different one, if there are other areas they connect to, give him the feeling that they can focus on them and nurture their sense of achievement. Don’t forget to cheer and praise them just as you did with your first, and in this case, try to do it even more.